With harvest winding down, you may think it's time to batten down the hatches on the grain center and walk away. You'll comeback to it when you're ready to haul grain out in January or February. According to Richard Stroshine, a Purdue University grain quality specialist, that could be a very large, very costly mistake.
Some of the grain going into bins in parts of the Corn Belt wasn't of the best quality. That's because the crop was grown under stress. That only adds to storage issues. Even where the quality was better, it's still important to manage grain properly so that when you pull grain out to sell it, you've got as good of grain as you put in this fall.
The biggest thing you can do is to core bins. This means removing one or more truckloads, depending upon the size of the bin, to pull out the center core, Stroshine says. Fines tend to collect in the center core. The center of the bin also is peaked when you finish filling it. Both of these factors tend to make it difficult to get even airflow up through the grain as you aerate it. He recommends aerating grain as the temperature drops outside to slowly drop the temperature of the grain inside the bin.
Stroshine prefers stopping before you freeze the grain. Specialists in colder climates suggest freezing the grain. If you're doing that, you still need to follow proper management techniques, both in the fall and then in the spring as outside temperatures warm up, he says.
Once you've cored the bin to remove fines and level the top of the grain mass inside the structure, get into a habit of checking each bin on a routine basis. Every other week will likely be sufficient, unless you know the bin is full of grain that could be a problem, or unless you see problems developing. Then the grain should be checked once per week.
Put a thermometer into the grain mass at the top so you can get a reading of the grain below the surface. That will help you determine if cooling fronts powered by aeration are making it to the top of the grain mass. Always follow proper safety precautions when entering a bin, even just to make inspections.